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Law

Orioles Dealt Another Loss in TV Rights Dispute

  • The New York Court of Appeals sides with Nationals in latest legal turn in long-running rights fee dispute.
  • The litigation has been a factor in the potential sale of the Nationals.
Orioles
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles suffered another setback in a dispute with the Washington Nationals that goes back more than a decade. 

The New York Court of Appeals issued an opinion Tuesday confirming an MLB committee’s ruling that the Orioles and the franchise’s majority-owned regional sports network owe the Nationals more than $100 million in rights fees.

“While it is unfortunate that our decision may send this protracted litigation into extra innings, that result is necessitated by the settlement agreement’s terms,” Judge Madeline Singas wrote in the 6-0 majority opinion. 

The ruling didn’t call on the Orioles or Mid-Atlantic Sports Network to pay up immediately, but rather to continue negotiations under the terms laid out in the settlement agreement created in 2005 — the first season the Montreal Expos were rebranded to the Nationals and began play in Washington, D.C. 

At the center of the dispute, first challenged by the Nats in 2012, is the amount due for their broadcast rights. 

The MLB panel ruled that rights fees from 2012-2016 were worth $105 million more than the Orioles and MASN argued was the fair market value to broadcast Nats games on the RSN. 

Impact on Nats Sale 

Ted Leonsis, who already owns the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics, leads a group bidding $2 billion for the Nats, though that process is put on hold as this litigation plays out. 

Last August, Leonsis took full ownership of the area’s other RSN, NBC Sports Washington. It’s been reported the Leonsis could want the Nats on the network, which is expected to rebranded.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story misstated the nature NBC Sports Washington’s planned rebrand.

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